While all schools have been shut due to the pandemic, some 50-odd children from a remote area of Murshidabad are attending ‘Gachher Iskul.’ Founded in March this year near a century-old neem tree that was saved by its teacher, the school is meant for preventing dropouts during the lockdown. Students in this green school have no access to online education. Besides studying in the evening, their aim is to plant 1,000 neem trees in the locality.
Visva Bharati’s alumnus Angshuman Thakur had started work on environmental issues from 2019. “I have been inspired by Tagore and tried to reach out to a generation that would want to save the environment from childhood. That’s how Gacher Iskul was founded for the children who live in the Bagdabra forest area of Murshidabad. I teach there when I get time,” said Thakur, who works as a teacher of Farakka College.
Children, aged between five and 10 years, come there late in the afternoon. There is no classroom but the shade of a tree is good enough. Doli Singha, a teacher, said, “I love the tree like a human being. When I saw a neighbour chopping it off, I informed the police to prevent that.” Her effort had paid off. Singha divides the students into two groups. For beginners, she uses drawings to develop their interest. “So, instead of writing number one, I draw a candle. It’s a duck in place of number two. For the rest, I teach them how to dance, recite Bengali poems and sing Santhali language songs,” she said.
A teacher from Thakur’s college pays Singha’s monthly salary. “Even social media users have donated to provide meals to the students,” Thakur said. Ten-year-old Oliva Tudu, whose father is a driver, comes to study at the school along with her brother. “I study in Pasupara Primary School. Apart from song and dance, we are taught everything that we have forgotten because our school has been shut for long. I enjoy coming here and play once the classes are over,” she said.